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January 6, 2015

Invasive Zebra Mussels found in Cherokee Lake

An invasive species has made its way into Cherokee Lake in East Tennessee threatening to disrupt the lake’s ecosystem and clog the lake with harmful and unsightly mussel colonies.

Last month, an angler fishing near the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s boat ramp at Olen Marshall Bridge in Bean Station discovered what he believed to be zebra mussels. He contacted the TWRA office and biologists were able to make a positive identification and verify there were more in the lake.

Originally brought to North America in international shipping ballast water from Eurasia, zebra mussels were discovered in the Great Lakes in 1988 and have spread rapidly throughout the connected waterways, eventually making their way to East Tennessee.

The rapidly reproducing mussels can have serious environmental, economic, and recreational impacts on Tennessee’s reservoirs.  Zebra mussels consume considerable amounts of beneficial microscopic organisms resulting in less food for larval and juvenile fishes that support native fisheries and native freshwater mussels.

“The TWRA can only do so much to stop the spread of zebra mussels. “The majority of the responsibility lies with the angling and boating public to be diligent in taking steps to control their spread,” said Bart Carter, TWRA Region IV Fisheries Coordinator.

The fast multiplying zebra mussels attach and colonize on hard surfaces such as docks, break walls, boat hulls, engine outdrives, water intake structures used for power and municipal water treatment plants, and even onto native freshwater mussels.  They also make water recreation hazardous because of their sharp edges.

prevent zebra mussel spreadZebra mussels have also been discovered in nearby Norris Lake prompting TWRA to encourage TVA to keep the lake level as low as possible to hopefully dry many of them out.  TWRA is also in the process of posting signs at Norris and Cherokee to notify boaters of how to slow the spread of zebra mussels by reminding them to “Clean, Drain and Dry” their vessels before traveling from one lake to another.  On all boats, trailers and equipment, follow these steps:

    Inspect the boat, trailer and all equipment and remove any visible vegetation or organisms.

    Pull boat plugs and drain live wells prior to leaving the water body.

    Flush engine with fresh, clean water.

    Dry boat and equipment for 5 days before launching into another water body.

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